Having re-listened to Long Beach a second time, I am still in awe of the level of communication displayed by the band Wednesday night. Phish’s improvisational skills are as sharp, if not sharper, than ever and clearly on the rise again. When the guys click like they did in the Southern California, a whole new improvisatioanal dynamic emerges.
In “Rock and Roll,” “Ghost,” and “Hood”—three top-notch excursions—there were “jams within the jams.” In each piece, one band member would present a new idea, and the other three guys would flock to it with negligible reaction time, and within measures, that single idea had blossomed into a musical tangent—often seen to fruition—before moving onto the next. Never falling prey to a cliché idea for the entirety of the second set, while constantly pushing each other forward, Phish showcased the essence of improvisation. If Phish comes close to playing in this vein on a nightly basis—and I don’t see why the won’t—we are in for quite a treat over the next fortnight.
What really stood out to me when relistening to the show was the single-minded nature of the band’s jamming. I couldn’t say any individual stood out last night over anyone else, because each band member’s phenomenal performance could be singled out. But what makes Phish larger than life is when any individual lead falls away in favor of the group mind. Things elevate the highest when one can’t pick an “MVP” of a show. Last night, Phish—as a whole—took home the gold.
The second set seemed to go by in a flash. Bombarded with fresh ideas for the duration, I was so engulfed by the moment that all of a sudden they were crushing “Good Times, Bad Times,” the obvious set closer. In essence, the set started…and then it ended, with nary a second of dead time. Even the mind-set “Guyute” felt possessed its menacing vigor of old—the first version that popped like that in a while. And while we are talking about shredding versions of standard songs, check out that set-closing “Good Times.”
Touching on just about all aspects of their game in a spectacular display of musicianship, Phish is moving into new levels of play. The band has always possessed a more singular focus to their music in former eras than they have now. Reeling in diverse styles from their near 30-year career and refinishing them with modern brushstrokes, Phish has become a more diverse band than ever. Covering ludicrous amounts of musical ground within a single jam, their music is more multi-dimensional than ever. And I’m not just talking about one show here. Their 11-14 minute jams birthed this phenomenon, and—now—if they start to stretch that dense musical paradigm into long form, over 20 plus minutes, hide the women and children, because psychedelic warfare will be waged nightly! Since 2009, the band has, undeniably, progressed with each and every tour, and this naturally seems like the next step. Like so many ghosts asked Ray Kinsella in “Field of Dreams,” is this heaven? No, this is Phish 2012. Let’s walk into the cornfields…
Island Run Pin Update:
The four piece colllectors set is officially up for sale at MYFE. Designs! Check out these high quality photos, and head on over to MYFE.’s house to pick up a set for your desk, mantle, or display case! Only 250 sets were made, and they will never be reproduced, so once they are gone they are gone!